The first year Ken Ballard competed in the Lowcountry Soup Challenge he made his all-time favorite -- gumbo. Since then, the owner of Kenny B's French Quarter Cafe on Hilton Head Island has realized how much fun it is to be creative.
In 2001, Ballard entered his "Granny Smith Got Drunk in Key West! With Cinnamon Apple Beignet." And last year his "Cuzin Cooter's Choot'em Gator Fried Turkey and Swamp Critter Stew" won first place.
"I really like this contest because the creativity and presentation allow you a good chance to win," Ballard said. "And to me, the name is kind of 25 percent of it. You know, you don't just say, 'Stew with beef in it.'"
Ballard is still kicking around a name for this year's soup, which will be themed around the Super Bowl and stadium food. He's thinking about doing a beer and bratwurst base with a nacho topping.
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"You know, this thing's a little off the wall," he said. "But that's something that's going to be kind of fun to put together."
Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island director of development Linda Bloom said more than 25 chefs will participate in this year's challenge. The event is held every year to raise money for the nonprofit free health clinic.
Bloom said she is expecting more than 1,000 people to attend this year. She said last year's event raised about $8,000 or $9,000, and the goal is to double that amount this year.
"It's going to be a fabulous event," Bloom said. "And what a great way to have brunch and also support Volunteers in Medicine and free health care on the island at the same time."
CUZIN COOTER'S CHOOT'EM GATOR FRIED TURKEY AND SWAMP CRITTER STEW
Makes: 12 servings
1/2 pound smoked sausage, cut in 1/4-inch rounds
1/2 pound deep-fried turkey meat pulled from whole fried turkey
1/2 pound Boudin sausage links ground up
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped bell pepper
1 cup diced celery
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup cut okra
1 cup cooked red beans
1/2 cup Carolina vinegar-based barbecue sauce
2 teaspoons dried tyme
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon Gumbo file
1 teaspoon dried taragon
1 pound pork necks or smoked ham hocks
1 pound crawfish bodies or shells
1 gallon water
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil or used fry shortening
1/2 pound cooked crawfish tail meat
1/4 pound cooked frog leg meat without bone
2 ounces turtle meat
1 pound gator tail, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
Simmer the water, pig bones and crawfish bodies. Let cook for one hour and strain liquid in separate saucepan with two tablespoons of the oil.
Brown the onions, celery, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. Add to simmering liquid in separate saucepan with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Brown the turkey meat, frog leg, Boudin, smoked sausage, turtle, crawfish and gator. Add this mixture after simmering the liquid mixture for two hours. Add the barbecue sauce, red beans and all the spices. Then, add the cooked Roux, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Brown the rest of the vegetable oil and flour together. Keep on low heat for two hours until dark brown.
Source: Kenny B's French Quarter Cafe
TRICK-OR-TREAT PUMPKIN GUMBO
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
9 cups crab stock
1 1/2 cups fry oil or vegetable oil
1/2 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 pound (40 count) tail of peeled shrimp
steamed rice, garnish
12 whole, peeled canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon gumbo file
3 pounds pumpkin purèe
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound dark brown sugar
2 ounces dark corn syrup
1/4 pound crawfish tail meat
8 hollowed-out small pumpkin bowls
In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil until very hot. Stir in flour to make a roux. Brown until dark reddish brown; do not let it scorch.
In another five-quart saucepan, lightly sautè vegetables; add the crab stock, tomatoes and pumpkins. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except the roux, sausage, shrimp, okra and file. Slowly stir as you add each spice.
Add the roux, file and okra while stirring slowly.
In a separate cast iron skillet, season the shrimp and sausage in your own house blend of blackening seasonings and blacken until cooked.
Add to the cooked gumbo. Season with some hot sauce and pepper if desired. Place in garnished pumpkin bowls and top with a small spoonful of rice.
Source: Kenny B's French Quarter Cafe